Aissa Mandi: Villarreal sign Algeria defender after Real Betis exit

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Aitor Alcalde

Villarreal have confirmed the signing of Aissa Mandi on a free transfer following the expiry of his contract at Real Betis.

The Algeria international penned a four-year deal on Wednesday to become the second African in Unai Emery’s team after Nigeria winger Samuel Chukwueze.

Mandi is not new to Spanish football having spent the last five years at Real Betis and he will link up with his new teammates when the Yellow Submarine kick-off their pre-season training on July 20.

Aside his defensive prowess, the 29-year-old has proved his versatility at the Estadio Benito Villamarin with his contribution of eight goals and four assists in 173 matches for Real Betis in all competitions.

“Villarreal CF have reached an agreement with Aïssa Mandi, who will play in yellow for the next four seasons (until June 2025). The French-Algerian footballer joins the Submarine as a free agent after his contract expired at Real Betis Balompie,” the club statement read.

Born in France to Algerian parents, Mandi started his career at Reims where he developed through the youth ranks before making his professional debut in a Ligue 2 encounter against Le Havre in August 2010.

His 16-year stint at Reims came to an end in 2016 when he sealed a five-year deal to Real Betis.

During the 2020-21 campaign, the Algeria defender enjoyed a decent return in front of goal with three goals for Real Betis who finished sixth in the La Liga table, three points above seventh-placed Villarreal.

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The move to the Estadio de la Ceramica also provides Mandi with a chance of playing Champions League football next season after the Yellow Submarine won the 2020-21 Uefa Europa League.

On the international scene, Mandi is a regular fixture in the Algeria national team and he was part of Djamel Belmadi’s team that won the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

He has a tally of two goals in 60 appearances for the Desert Foxes. He opened his goal account for Algeria during the 2017 Afcon qualifiers against Ethiopia in March 2016 while the second came in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers against Botswana which ended 5-0 in March this year.